Just before sunset on April 10, 2006, a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City. As soldiers on the ground approached the plane, the crew tried to shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak. So the troops grew suspicious and searched the jet.
They found 128 black suitcases, packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca, near Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors later found. Law enforcement officials also discovered something else.
The smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp., Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its August 2010 issue.
This was no isolated incident. Wachovia, it turns out, had made a habit of helping move money for Mexican drug smugglers…
Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history…
“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,”
Since 2006, more than 22,000 people have been killed in drug-related battles…
Among the dead are police, soldiers, journalists and ordinary citizens…
“It’s the banks laundering money for the cartels that finances the tragedy,”
“If you don’t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 22,000 people killed in Mexico, you’re missing the point,”
Drug traffickers used accounts at Bank of America in Oklahoma City to buy three planes that carried 10 tons of cocaine, according to Mexican court filings. Federal agents caught people who work for Mexican cartels depositing illicit funds in Bank of America accounts in Atlanta, Chicago and Brownsville, Texas, from 2002 to 2009.
No bank has been more closely connected with Mexican money laundering than Wachovia. Founded in 1879, Wachovia became the largest bank by assets in the southeastern U.S. by 1900. After the Great Depression, some people in North Carolina called the bank “Walk-Over-Ya” because it had foreclosed on farms in the region.
By 2008, Wachovia was the sixth-largest U.S. lender, and it faced $26 billion in losses from subprime mortgage loans. That cost Wachovia Chief Executive Officer Kennedy Thompson his job in June 2008.
Six months later, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which dates from 1852, bought Wachovia for $12.7 billion, creating the largest network of bank branches in the U.S. Thompson, who now works for private-equity firm Aquiline Capital Partners LLC in New York, declined to comment.
As Wachovia’s balance sheet was bleeding, its legal woes were mounting. In the three years leading up to Wachovia’s agreement with the Justice Department, grand juries served the bank with 6,700 subpoenas requesting information.
Not Quick Enough
The bank didn’t react quickly enough to the prosecutors’ requests and failed to hire enough investigators, the U.S. Treasury Department said in March. After a 22-month investigation, the Justice Department on March 12 charged Wachovia with violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to run an effective anti-money-laundering program.
Five days later, Wells Fargo promised in a Miami federal courtroom to revamp its detection systems. Wachovia’s new owner paid $160 million in fines and penalties, less than 2 percent of its $12.3 billion profit in 2009.
If Wells Fargo keeps its pledge, the U.S. government will, according to the agreement, drop all charges against the bank in March 2011.
The bank declined to answer specific questions, including how much it made by handling $378.4 billion — including $4 billion of cash-from Mexican exchange companies.
No big U.S. bank — Wells Fargo included — has ever been indicted for violating the Bank Secrecy Act or any other federal law. Instead, the Justice Department settles criminal charges by using deferred-prosecution agreements, in which a bank pays a fine and promises not to break the law again.
For years, federal authorities watched as the wife and daughter of Oscar Oropeza, a drug smuggler working for the Matamoros-based Gulf Cartel, deposited stacks of cash at a Bank of America branch on Boca Chica Boulevard in Brownsville, Texas, less than 3 miles from the border.
Investigator Robinette sits in his pickup truck across the street from that branch. It’s a one-story, tan stucco building next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. Robinette discusses the Oropeza case with Tom Salazar, an agent who investigated the family.
“Everybody in there knew who they were — the tellers, everyone,” Salazar says. “The bank never came to us, though.”
To make their criminal enterprises work, the drug cartels of Mexico need to move billions of dollars across borders. That’s how they finance the purchase of drugs, planes, weapons and safe houses, Senator Gonzalez says.
“They are multinational businesses, after all,” says Gonzalez, as he slowly loads his revolver at his desk in his Mexico City office. “And they cannot work without a bank.”
Is it not enough to steal from ordinary Americans, it’s not enough to rig bids in the municipal bond markets, is it not enough to rip
Now it is admitted that these institutions literally fund criminal gangs that are committing murder?
There are laws in place for this type of behavior… It is called “Operating A Continuing Criminal Enterprise“, or “OCCE”:
The FBI defines a criminal enterprise as a group of individuals with an identified hierarchy, or comparable structure, engaged in significant criminal activity. These organizations often engage in multiple criminal activities and have extensive supporting networks. The terms Organized Crime and Criminal Enterprise are similar and often used synonymously. However, various federal criminal statutes specifically define the elements of an enterprise that need to be proven in order to convict individuals or groups of individuals under those statutes.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, or Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961(4), defines an enterprise as “any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity.”
The Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, or Title 21 of the United States Code, Section 848(c)(2), defines a criminal enterprise as any group of six or more people, where one of the six occupies a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position of management with respect to the other five, and which generates substantial income or resources, and is engaged in a continuing series of violations of subchapters I and II of Chapter 13 of Title 21 of the United States Code.
The FBI defines organized crime as any group having some manner of a formalized structure and whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities. Such groups maintain their position through the use of actual or threatened violence, corrupt public officials, graft, or extortion, and generally have a significant impact on the people in their locales, region, or the country as a whole.
Significant Racketeering Activity
The FBI defines significant racketeering activities as those predicate criminal acts that are chargeable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. These are found in Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961 (1) and include the following federal crimes:
- Sports Bribery
- Embezzlement of Union Funds
- Mail Fraud
- Wire Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Obstruction of Justice
- Murder for Hire
- Drug Trafficking
- Sexual Exploitation of Children
- Alien Smuggling
- Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods
- Theft from Interstate Shipment
- Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property
And the following state crimes: